Facebook: The New Gym Guilt

I always feel better when I go, so why is it so hard to get there?

The 10 million dollar question is usually reserved for dragging my body from the computer to the car to the overheard press at the gym. But in the last couple of months, it’s popped up in a new place: Facebook.

It was not ever thus. In the past, I didn’t resist logging on. It was a pleasure.

“It’s a great way to keep up,” I’d tell my friends who shunned screen time.

“You can see the grandchildren of high school friends you haven’t known for 40 years.”

“Who wants to?” they might respond. And then I’d add a splash of sensitivity.

“If someone’s mother just died, would you really want to find that out when you called to borrow their snow blower?”

But somehow in the midst of promoting FB, my own interest waned. I’d like to say it was some high-flown, research-based breakup. Or that I announced it with the flair of the positive psychology expert who recently told New York Times Magazine that it was an obligation of friendship to monitor others’ excessive screen time.

“Friends,” she announced, “don’t let friends lose their humanity.”

I’d like to say my Facebook malaise comes from passion like hers. But it’s likely more from virtual friend guilt – the knowledge that I pay for the exhilarating search through endless news nuggets with well over an hour of lost time.

Whatever, the root cause, To FB or Not FB triggers an exquisite guilt game that no self-respecting “should-er “can resist. Unlike the gym, which triggers guilt only if I don’t go, I get to feel guilty both when I am off FB and when I am on. When I am off, I should not be abandoning a flock of 500+ friends. When I am on, I should be spending my time more productively.

I should probably hire a coach just to help me out of this stuckness. But wait. I am one. So at the risk of having a fool for a client, I am walking myself around Guilt 1 and Guilt 2.

Guilt 1. Unless others are silently sulking at my virtual abandonment, only two –my Significant Other and one girlfriend– have actually noticed my lack of Comments, Likes and Shares.

“Don’t take it personally,” I’ve told them. “I’m in a FB funk.” Guilt 1 resolved.

Guilt 2. This is knottier. If I am on, I should do something more productive. If I really want to ramp it up, I can imagine I should be at the gym.

“What’s the middle ground?” I ask myself. And answer: “See what you can get out of FB in 15 minutes.” Darn little, I predict. Au contraire.

In 15 minutes, I liked a great picture of a good friend with her new grandson, could see life was getting back to normal for my nephew in Hoboken, N.J., invited a friend to coffee, and signed up to pray for a prisoner next Thursday.

So sure, FB can be productive and even inspiring. Still, I worry that 15 minutes would soon become 30 and 45 and an entire hour down the rabbit hole.

“Set the timer,” I command, hoping it will make me stop in my tracks like my three-year-old granddaughter when it’s naptime. Guilt 2 possibly resolved.

And who knows. Maybe I could use the extra time for the gym. But two guilts conquered are my quota for one day.

Copyright 2013 Pat Snyder

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2 Responses to “Facebook: The New Gym Guilt”

  1. Nita Says:

    I noticed your absence! Nice to know you’re not completely overcome by guilt, but also that you’re not completely abandoning FB either. See ya ’round the Interwebs!

  2. Bill Says:

    How funny! I haven’t been able to keep up on FB, but thought you had been absent, and I was going to check in. Good thing I checked your website instead. Case solved! What’s next?

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